WPEN (FM)

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WPEN
WPEN 97.5TheFanatic logo.png
City Burlington, New Jersey
Broadcast area Delaware Valley
Branding 97.5 The Fanatic
Slogan Philly's First FM Sports Station
Frequency 97.5 MHz (also on HD Radio)
First air date 1949 (as WTOA, Trenton, New Jersey)
Format Sports
HD2: Classical Music
HD3: Spanish CHR ("Supra FM")
ERP 26,000 watts (analog)
1,244 watts (digital)[1]
HAAT 208 meters (682 ft)
Class B
Facility ID 47427
Transmitter coordinates 40°04′57.00″N 75°10′53.00″W / 40.0825000°N 75.1813889°W / 40.0825000; -75.1813889 (NAD27)
Callsign meaning William PENn Broadcasting (original owner of former sister station 950 AM, now WKDN)
Former callsigns WTOA (1949–1971)
WPST (1971–2005)
WTHK (2005–2006)
WJJZ-FM (2006)
WJJZ (2006–2008)
WNUW (2008–2009)
WPEN-FM (2009–2013)
Former frequencies 44.7 MHz (1940-1942)
49.9 MHz (1942-1947)
Affiliations ESPN Radio
Fox Sports Radio
Philadelphia 76ers Radio Network
Philadelphia Flyers Radio Network
Owner Beasley Broadcast Group
(Beasley Media Group Licenses, LLC)
Sister stations WBEN-FM, WMGK, WMMR, WTEL, WTMR, WWDB
Webcast Listen Live or
Listen Live via IHeartRadio
Website www.975thefanatic.com
supraradio.com (HD3)

WPEN (97.5 FM, "97.5 The Fanatic") is a commercial FM radio station licensed to serve Burlington, New Jersey, in the Philadelphia radio market. The station is owned by the Beasley Broadcast Group through licensee Beasley Media Group, LLC and broadcasts a sports radio format.

WPEN is the flagship station for the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers Radio Network and the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers Radio Network. It also carries Temple University football games, Philadelphia Union MLS games and Philadelphia Soul Arena Football League games.[2] WPEN has local hosts days and evenings while carrying the nationally syndicated ESPN Radio Network nights and some weekend hours. It is also affiliated with the Fox Sports Radio Network.

Studios are located in Bala Cynwyd and the station's broadcast tower is located in Wyndmoor at (40°04′57.0″N 75°10′52.2″W / 40.082500°N 75.181167°W / 40.082500; -75.181167).[3] WPEN broadcasts using HD Radio. Its HD2 subchannel carries classical music. The HD3 subchannel airs Spanish contemporary hits.

History[edit]

WTOA[edit]

On November 22, 1940, the Federal Communications Commission granted Mercer Broadcasting Company a construction permit for a new station, licensed to serve Trenton, New Jersey, on 44.7 MHz[4] on the original 42-50 MHz FM broadcast band. On January 29, 1942, the FCC granted Mercer Broadcasting a change to 49.9 MHz.[4] After the FCC created the current FM broadcast band on June 27, 1945,[5] the station was reassigned to 97.5 MHz on July 10, 1947.[4] The station was granted its first license on September 27, 1949 with the WTOA call sign.[4]

The Trenton Times Corporation purchased the station effective June 28, 1962.[4]

Nassau Broadcasting Company purchased the station effective December 12, 1964.[4][6]

WPST[edit]

On September 13, 1971, WTOA's call sign was changed to WPST, which stood for "Passport Stereo Trenton," a slogan of the station at the time. The station's format was middle of the road music.

In August 1975, Nassau Broadcasting owner Herb Hobler hired Phil Gieger as the General Manager. Gieger and morning host/station manager Tom Taylor revamped the station and coined the phrase, "From The Shore To The Poconos, The Music Is On The FM 97.5 WPST. They initially established an Adult Top 40 format, not as youth-oriented as Top 40 stations heard on AM radio at the time. By Fall 1975, the station took off and eventually became the number one station in the market. Over time, the format moved to Mainstream Top 40 music.

Taylor remained the morning host until 1987. Other WPST DJs over the years included John Mellon (aka Walt Ballard), Ed Johnson, Doug James, John Brown, Eddie Davis, Trish Merelo, Andy Gury, Brian Douglas, Mel "Toxic" Taylor, Jay Sorensen, Dave Hoeffel, Tom Cunningham, Michelle Stevens, Eric Johnson, Mark Sheppard, Andre Gardner, Phil Simon, Steve Trevelise, Joel Katz, Rich DeSisto, Lee Tobin, Steve Kamer, Lori Johnson, Mark DiDia, Bob Sorrentino, and Scott Lowe.

WTHK[edit]

On February 14, 2005, at 5 p.m., 97.5 swapped call signs and formats with 94.5 WTHK. Branded on air as "The Hawk", WTHK had a classic rock format. Like WPST, WTHK was owned by Nassau Broadcasting and licensed as a station serving Trenton. In August 2005, WTHK's city of license was changed from Trenton to Burlington, a community just up the Delaware River from Philadelphia.

These changes were the first two steps of a three-step process designed to maximize the value of the licenses for 94.5 and 97.5. The reallocation of the 97.5 frequency from Trenton to Burlington moved it into the larger and more lucrative Philadelphia radio market and made it possible to move the 97.5 transmitter to a site much closer to Philadelphia. This made 97.5 a much more valuable property, one ripe for sale to a major market broadcast company regardless of what format it might currently be running. Meanwhile, WPST, now on 94.5, continued to operate as a popular and profitable Trenton-market station. The 94.5 frequency allotment was not suitable for relocation to a larger market.

Sale to Greater Media[edit]

Nassau Broadcasting chose to leave the final necessary step, the actual relocation of the 97.5 transmitter, to the eventual buyer, which would turn out to be Greater Media. Since Greater Media already had a Philadelphia classic rock station in 102.9 WMGK, it was almost certain a new format would be chosen for 97.5. Clear Channel's decision to drop smooth jazz from 106.1 left a format hole in the market, and Greater Media decided to fill it with a new version of WJJZ on 97.5.

WTHK signed off on November 15, 2006, at 7 p.m. Shortly after that, Greater Media began airing a simulcast of WMGK, the Hawk's former competitor, on 97.5 as a placeholder. Before WJJZ was to take over, messages urged listeners to reprogram their radios to 102.9 WMGK to continue enjoying classic rock.

Smooth Jazz[edit]

WJJZ 106.1 ended its smooth jazz format at noon on August 10, 2006, and flipped to a rhythmic adult contemporary format, branded as Philly's 106.1. Many former Smooth Jazz 106.1 listeners protested when the format was abandoned in Philadelphia. Much to the delight of fans, Greater Media announced in late October that it would pick up the Smooth Jazz format for 97.5. The official transfer of ownership took place on November 15, when WTHK signed off and shut down its Trenton transmitter.

The new WJJZ launched on Friday, November 17, 2006 at 6 p.m.. After a minute of silence, a recording of smooth jazz artists greeted listeners was played (the same recording that was played at the closing of the old WJJZ). Then Dave Koz announced the premiere of the new home of WJJZ. The first song played on the new frequency was the Grover Washington, Jr. tune "Protect the Dream." The new WJJZ began broadcasting from the same tower used by the old WJJZ, located on Mermaid Lane in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania.

At the station's start, it used Broadcast Architecture's syndicated "Smooth Jazz Network," with musician Dave Koz as the afternoon host, Program Director Michael Tozzi handling middays and Ramsey Lewis' morning show on WNUA simulcast from Chicago. DJs from the old WJJZ were added over time, Bill Simpson, Frank Childs and Desirae McCrae. Also heard were Al Winters and Lisa Fairfax.

WNUW Now 97.5[edit]

WJJZ's lack of ratings success fueled rumors of a format change. In the summer of 2008, Greater Media began doing listener research to change the station. Among the formats tested was Soft AC, Hot AC, All News on FM, FM Talk, and a AAA format similar to WIOQ of the early 80s.

On September 5, 2008, at 6:00 p.m., after playing Boyz II Men's "I'll Make Love to You", The station then began stunting with a loop of 15 songs, ranging from Blondie's "Heart of Glass" to Avril Lavigne's "Complicated". Three days later, on September 8, at 9 AM, "Now 97.5" made its debut as a Hot AC station. It positioned itself as "a younger approach to today's soft rock," competing with the market AC leader, WBEB ("B-101"). The first song was "Who Knew" by Doylestown native, P!nk.

On October 31, 2008, at 5:00 p.m., the station switched to all-Christmas music. During WNUW's first week in the all-Christmas format, competitor B101 announced it would be sprinkling in Christmas tunes during the weekend of November 8–9, obviously in reaction to WNUW. Then on November 13, B101 flipped to all-Christmas. It was the earliest that B101 made the switch. Shortly thereafter, adult standards AM station 1340 WHAT also started playing an all-Christmas format. Then on November 26, in a surprise move, classic hits 98.1 WOGL changed its format to all-Christmas for the first time. Including 99.5 WJBR-FM, in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, it gave the Philadelphia market five Christmas formatted stations in 2008.

The first on-air personality to be hired by WNUW was Glenn Kalina, whose morning show debuted on January 5, 2009. After finishing at #3 in the 2008 Holiday ratings, the station's audience fell off when it returned to its Hot AC format. WNUW trailed every other commercial Philadelphia FM and even Trenton station WPST, and Wilmington station WSTW in its last ratings period.

"The Fanatic" Sports Radio[edit]

On October 9, 2009, at 5 PM, after playing Streetcorner Symphony by Rob Thomas, WNUW flipped to an FM simulcast of WPEN, with the new identity of "97.5 The Fanatic, Powered by ESPN." The call sign was switched from WNUW to WPEN-FM.

Some of the time, the two stations would simulcast. But when national live game broadcasts were available from ESPN Radio or another network, the AM side would carry the games, while WPEN-FM would feature Philadelphia-focused sports talk. On December 21, 2012, AM 950 was sold to Family Radio and became WKDN. After the completion of the sale on January 10, 2013, WPEN-FM was assigned the WPEN call sign by the FCC.

97.5 The Fanatic was Philadelphia's only FM sports station for its first two years. Its rival was AM 610 WIP, owned by CBS Radio and running a sports format since 1988. But in 2011, CBS converted a struggling rock station, 94.1 WYSP, to a WIP simulcast. It became WIP-FM, making Philadelphia one of only a handful of major U.S. cities with two FM sports stations.

Beginning with the 2012 NBA Playoffs, WPEN-FM became the flagship station for the Philadelphia 76ers, moving away from 94.1 WIP-FM, where they were aired for years. Less than a week later, the Philadelphia Flyers announced they too were leaving WIP-FM for WPEN.

In 2016, WPEN began airing Philadelphia Soul regular season games, in the Arena Football League.[7]

On July 19, 2016, the Beasley Media Group announced it would acquire Greater Media and its 21 stations (including WPEN) for $240 million.[8] The FCC approved the sale on October 6, and the sale closed on November 1.[9]

Signal note[edit]

WPEN is short-spaced to WENJ 97.3 ESPN (licensed to serve Millville, New Jersey) as they operate on first adjacent channels (97.5 & 97.3) and the cities they are licensed to serve are only 47 miles apart.[10] The minimum distance between two Class B stations operating on first adjacent channels according to current FCC rules is 105 miles.[11] WPEN uses a directional antenna to reduce its signal toward the southeast, in the direction of WENJ.[3]

HD Radio[edit]

WPEN HD2[edit]

WPEN's HD2 digital subchannel broadcasts Classical music.

WPEN HD3[edit]

WPEN's HD3 digital subchannel broadcasts a Spanish CHR format branded as "Supra Radio" (which was formerly simulcast on translator W237EH 95.3 FM Pennsauken, New Jersey).[12]

References[edit]

External links[edit]